Female Trouble (1974)

female trouble poster 1974 john waters
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 2/10
Visuals: 8/10

All about shock value, good debate with trash vs something more

Waters is an acquired taste

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Female Trouble

Studio:  Dreamland

Genre(s):  Comedy

Release Date(s):  October 11, 1974 (Premiere)

MPAA Rating:  NC-17

female trouble christmas dawn davenport divine cha cha heels

The perfect Christmas movie to watch with the family…

Dawn Davenport (Divine) has never followed the rules.  When she beats up her mother (Betty Woods) and her father (Roland Hertz) and runs off on Christmas Day, she finds herself a single mother to Taffy Davenport (Mink Stole) and just trying to survive as she hopes everyone recognizes her beauty.  Marrying her stylist Gater Nelson (Michael Potter), Dawn catches the attention of Donna Dasher (Mary Vivian Pearce) and Donald Dasher (David Lochary) who think she can be a star…despite a deadly attack by Ida Nelson (Edith Massey).

Written and directed by John Waters, Female Trouble is a comedy.  Following Pink Flamingos in 1972, the film faced criticism for its content and has an 89 minute version and a 97 minute version.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #929).

John Waters is a very acquired taste.  In living in the tasteless, Waters established himself and created almost his own genre of self-aware dirty film.  Female Trouble isn’t as over-the-top as some of his other films, but it is right up there.

female trouble edith massey leather costume

Witness the glory of Edith Massey!

Though Female Trouble is one of Waters early films, he continues the themes he established in movies like Multiple Maniacs and Pink Flamingos.  Dawn is obsessed with fame, hates the trappings of family life and suburbia, what is and is not gross, and unconventional beauty.  The odd things about Waters films although he seems to champion the counter-culture lifestyle, the characters all end up burning for them and even in Waters’ presentation seem morally bankrupt.

Waters has his normal players and they are circled around Divine.  The absurdity of the situation is amplified by Divine being so much older than the character being portrayed and an acid attack actually makes Divine “more beautiful” in the eyes of their group.  Divine has a double role playing her baby’s father Earl Peterson (Sally Turner stands in for Divine in the sex scene).  Mink Stole is fun as the young daughter (who “looks a lot older”) and David Lochary and Mary Vivian Pearce are good as the couple encouraging Divine’s attempts to rise to popularity.  Edith Massey is just odd and a scene stealer as she is in Pink Flamingos as well.

female trouble dawn davenport show divine

Everything would be different if she had gotten those cha-cha heels

The movie is shot rather cheaply.  It is also obvious that Waters did a lot of guerrilla shootings with outdoor shots that probably were not permitted (from of the stares from the people around).  A movie heavily based on looks, Waters goes for the extreme (and often disgusting) visuals…you don’t need to see Massey playing with her breasts, but Waters shows it because you don’t need it.

Female Trouble is peak Waters and definitely not for everyone.  It does feel like a bunch of friends got together and said “what can we do next” which is fun and it is obvious that the cast is having fun…but if it makes great cinema is definitely something else (which can be debated forever).  Waters followed Female Trouble with Desperate Living in 1977.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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